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As defined by Peter G. Knight and William G. Robertson for the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History, staff rides “are a unique and powerful way for today’s leaders to gain insight and wisdom from the past for present-day application.” By participating in staff rides, the authors state, “staff ride participants exercise and improve their critical thinking skills, essential creativity, and decision-making capabilities.”
CNE-CNA-C6F personnel joined the long history of the staff ride with a reading and discussion of the Battle of Cassino. The battle, also known as Battle for Rome, was a series of four assaults by the Allies and Italians (who by October 1943 had joined the Allies and declared war on Germany) against the Axis-held Winter Line in Italy during the Italian Campaign of World War II.
The 4-month long battle, which took place from January to May 1944, incurred heavy casualties on both sides, with the Allies eventually breaking through in mid-May. The battle set the stage for the Allied capture of Rome, June 4, 1944, two days before the invasion of Normandy, France.
“This is a very unique and informative opportunity for our staff,” said Craig Linderman, one of the organizers and planners of this staff ride. “Taking time out of our day to understand and appreciate the history all around us enhances our professional knowledge of military service, joint and combined operations, and our understanding of operational art. It also fosters appreciation for our host nation.”
After an initial presentation, 22 staff ride participants loaded the bus to start their tour of the region. Throughout the tour, they visited Point 473, also known as “Hangman’s Hill,” Polish Cemetery, Snakehead Ridge, and the Montecassino Abbey.
“I never even knew this battle existed and learning about how big of an impact it had during World War II was a huge takeaway for me,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Bruce Simpson. “We don’t talk about this battle enough, and I have a newfound respect for the terrain and what these troops had to overcome.”
This is the first staff ride for CNE-CNA-C6F personnel since before the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability and drive to restart the program led to the successful restart with this trip, fostering a knowledge and appreciation of military history that those serving throughout government today can apply to their own service.
“In the history books, we only hear about how we won,” said Joe Klein, assigned to the N3 directorate of CNE-CNA-C6F. “What is talked about less is that there were also a whole lot of losses. Difficult missions, people put into harrowing situations… these people were really put onto the pointed end of the spear and it is important that we learn about and have a healthy appreciation for the past to prevent it from happening again.”
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